11 Followups and Updates: Part 1

In this first episode of Season 2, we’ll take a look back at a few of the women profiled in Season 1, to discover some exciting new details about them that came to light during my research travels over the past few months.


Welcome to Season Two of Photographs, Pistols & Parasols!

Our new season kicks off with a look back at a few of the women from Season One, sharing some new information uncovered on my research trip around North America. It’s been great fun to stumble on little additional tidbits not only on new-to-me women photographers, but also some of the ones I’ve already talked about here on the podcast, and I decided I couldn’t wait to share some of my findings.

So, this episode contains a few quick updates on the following photographers and historians.

The biggest surprise was uncovering the passport applications for Anna and Margaret O’Donnell, which are now available online. And we’re in luck — the application copies  include their photos!

So, without further ado, I’d like you to “meet” the O’Donnell sisters. 🙂

Anna O'Donnell Rodgers (passport photo, 1923)
Anna O’Donnell Rodgers (passport photo, 1923)
Margaret O'Donnell (passport photo, 1923)
Margaret O’Donnell (passport photo, 1923)

But today’s episode is only Part  1 of the updates.  Look for Part 2 on December 15th, when I bring you a special interview with John Felix, an independent photo historian from Massachusetts. John has been doing his own research in the Townes, and he is going to share a very special update that solves a mystery related  Clara Ober-Towne. Tune in on December 15th – you won’t want to miss this!



You’re listening to Photographs, Pistols & Parasols.

Welcome to Photographs, Pistols, and Parasols, the podcast where we celebrate early women artisan photographers.

I’m your host, Lee McIntyre.

For more information about any of the women discussed in today’s episode, visit my website at p3photographers.net. That’s letter “p”, number “3”, photographers dot net.

Support for this podcast is provided by listeners like you. Check out my website at p3photographers.net for ideas on how you, too, can become a supporter of the project.

Welcome to season 2 of Photographs, Pistols & Parasols!

I’d really like to thank everyone who has downloaded, subscribed, and otherwise supported the Photographs, Pistols, & Parasols podcast over the last four months.

It’s been really exciting to interact with people, and get your emails and your feedback on how the podcast is progressing.

Before I launched the podcast back in June, I was already on the road, visiting archives and going to public libraries, talking with people at historical societies, trying to track down more information about some of the photographers that I had first encountered via the online digitized newspapers, and the census records, and other items that are available online.

Most of my research, at least initially, is still done by looking up information online.

But sometimes, to find a little piece of information that fills in a gap about a woman’s life or her career — well, in order to find that information, it’s necessary to go to an archive or a library and consult microfilm newspaper records, or old city directories that exist that aren’t available digitally.

So, Season Two here on the podcast has shaped up to be a series of stories about women that I’m encountering as I’m going across the country.

I’m going to the historical societies and finding works by them – [examples of their photography, in some cases. … examples of some of their ledger books an information about their studio practices.

And also I’ve interacted with people who have done some research on these women in the various historical societies and libraries and museums in these towns that I’ve been visiting.

So I’m going to be bringing you the women’s stories enhanced by all of this information that I’ve gathered.

In some instances, I’ll also be bringing you some of the people who have worked on them to talk here on the podcast as well.

Now before we get to any of the new women that we’re going to meet on Season Two, first I want to share a few details that I uncovered about some of the women on Season One as I’ve been travelling in the last 4 months.

It’s information that I uncovered after I recorded those podcast episodes. So I thought I’d share with you a couple of the more exciting things that I discovered.

Now, one of the things I’ve discovered is that I have, maybe, an unhealthy obsession with finding obituaries for these women. It’s not that I wish them dead, but when you find an obituary it can be the source of a lot of information about them that can fill in the gaps about maybe some of their family members.

Or, for a married woman, her maiden name, which maybe I hadn’t figured out before.

Or, information about her career, if she had a very long career as a photographer, sometimes that gets mentioned in the newspaper.

I really find the obituary really helpful for filling in some of the gaps, and also providing the finality of her life, because it gives us her death date. which for some of the women I haven’t always have been able to find in other sources.

So one of the things about the women that I’m researching is that most of them will have died after 1922, which is the cut off for a lot of the online newspapers.

In some cases it’s really necessary to go and work with the microfilm — and the cranky microfilm readers! — in order to find the obituaries in newspapers that have been microfilmed but not digitized.

So that is just an intro to the first two updates that I’m going to give you because in both cases it comes from obituaries.

Update number one is about Episode 6: Meet the McKellips.

That episode was about Myrtle and Mary McKellips, two sisters in Beloit, Kansas, who opened a photography studio there, ran it for many years, and then ultimately move to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they ran it there as well.

The open question from that episode was what had happened to Mary McKellips?

Now, Myrtle McKellips, later Mary McKellips Hill, winds up dying fairly young, and it was clear that when she died, her husband, who had also been a photographer, sort of loses his way, and her children are raised by another sister.

But the issue of Mary McKellips was still a little bit unclear. She lives until 1980, and I had speculated in the episode (based on the fact that she was a photographer in 1940, the last available census record) — well, I had speculated that she continued to be a photographer for much of her life.

Thanks to Marla, the librarian in Beloit, Kansas, we were able to track down Mary McKellips Nistl’s obituary. Now, Nistl was her second married name. I don’t believe she actually lived with him for many years before her death, but she actually did continue to use her married name until her death.

Anyway, in Mary McKellips Nistl’s obituary, in 1980, it says that she was a photographer in Tulsa. Oklahoma for 40 years. Now that, combined with the years that she ran the studio in Beloit, means that she had a photographic career that extended for well over 50 years, which is pretty exciting.

Alright, update number two involves the Misses O’Donnell: they are from Episode 5.

The Misses O’Donnell were Margaret and Anna O’Donnell. The sisters, you might recall, ran a studio in Beloit. Kansas for many years, and then Anna gets married. Margaret eventually retires as a photographer, but they continue to travel the world.

Actually, the last we saw of Margaret she was “sailing off into the sunset”, as I said, in 1938, on a boat, sailing toward Honolulu.

But the curious thing was that I lost her trail; I couldn’t figure out what had happened to her.

So again, thanks to Marla in the Beloit library, we were able to track down what happened Margaret.

As it turns out, she only lived for another year. She winds up dying in March of 1939 in Kansas City, Missouri, where she was living.

But in addition to that obituary, I actually have a special treat that isn’t based on obituary.

Thanks to Marla, we noticed that Margaret and Anna’s passport applications from 1923 are now available online!

This is before Margaret and Anna took their big trip to Japan, and they write in the application that they intend to take “a pleasure trip to Japan” that year.

Of course (as a spoiler to episode number 5), that turns out not to be exactly “a pleasure trip” when they wind up in the middle of the Great Konto Earthquake of 1923.

So it was fun, though, to see their passport applications , filled out before they’re gonna head off for this big trip.

But the other fun thing about the passport applications is that the passport photo is also available online.

So now we get to see what Margaret and Anna looked like.

I’ll post those pictures as part of the episode notes for this episode so you can see two of our early women photographers when they’re happy and planning for a big trip.

As I said, if you listen to episode 5, though, you’ll see what actually happens once they get to Japan.

Our next update is related to Episode 9, the episode about Peter E. Palmquist.

Just after I finished recording that episode, his life partner, Pam Mendelssohn, went live with her new website that highlights the research that’s been funded by the Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund in the years since Peter’s death.

I added a link about that website to the episode notes for Episode 9, but I just want to call your attention to it again today, since the notice of that didn’t make it into the recording of my podcast.

The link to Pam’s new website is palmquistgrants.com.

That’s P A L M Q U I S T G R A N T S “dot” com.

The Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund supports the study of under-researched women photographers, internationally, and past and present, as well as under-researched western American photographers, male or female, before 1900.

There’s information on the website about the foundation, a beautiful tribute to Peter by Pam, and also information about all of the work that’s been funded — the different projects and the different women and women photographers that have been highlighted.

I really encourage you to check it out.

For our next update we traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts, where I was able to visit the Springfield History Library and Archives and uncover some more information about Clara Ober-Towne and her husband, Willis Towne. [Related to Episode 7, a Tale of Two Townes]

I really want to thank Cliff at the Springfield History Library and Archives for all of his help in uncovering the material.

While I was there, one of the main things that I was able to do was to track down the obituaries for Clara and Willis. I mean, I had known that they had moved from Boston to Springfield and open up a studio there, and practiced photography there until they retired.

And I already knew when they died, but I hadn’t known any thing about their life in Springfield.

So was fun to find the obituaries, and again, it’s a little bit ghoulish, maybe, to say it’s “fun” to find obituaries but you do get a sense of their lives when they were in Springfield

Willis and Claire were very active in this society in Springfield and then when he dies in 1932, later that year there’s a notice in the paper that Clara has decided to sell off a bunch of ” bric-a-brac knickknacks and the like from their extensive world tours”.

Which is really interesting because we get a glimpse of Clara and Willis as people who not only were professional photographers but also people who had side interests and hobbies, like travel.

I always like to find these little tidbits If I can to give another dimension to understanding the photographer’s eye profile here on the podcast

Now I do have one more big update about the Townes to share with you, but that’s going to have to wait until next time, when I’ll have a chance to bring you my chat with a man named John Felix.

He’s an independent photo historian in Massachusetts.

John has been doing some in-depth research on the Townes, and he’s willing to share some of the amazing detective work he’s done to track down the answer to a question I raised back in episode 9. [NB: this is a mistake – the episode about the Townes is episode 7]

The story he uncovered unexpectedly involves someone I’ll call “the music man”.

How that ties in with our photographers will astound you.

So look for that update in the next episode

Also next time I’ll provide a sneak peek of some of the fabulous artisan women photographers who will be appearing on the podcast later this season.

So stay tuned — there’s much more to come in Season Two!

For more information about any of the early women photographers profiled on the podcast, visit my website at p3photographers.net.

That’s letter p, number 3, photographers “dot” net.

Or, drop me a line at podcast “at” p3photographers “dot” net.

You can also follow me on facebook at www.facebook.com/p3photographers/

Support for this podcast is provided by listeners like you. Check out my website at p3photographers.net for ideas on how you, too, can become a supporter of the project.

That’s it for today.

Until next time, I’m Lee, and this is Photographs, Pistols & Parasols.